As the students of Professor Clay Warren’s Persuasion class filter into the classroom located on the 2nd floor of GW’s 1957 E Street building, their eyes are immediately drawn to the duo standing at the front of the lecture hall with their instructor. Having heard about this particular class session from friends and study partners who have previously taken the course, they’ve been looking forward to today all semester.
When Professor Warren introduces the guest speakers—the Global Chairman & CEO and a Managing Director from Kwittken, one of the fastest growing, modern communications agencies in the world—he’s able to do so with a certain insider knowledge.
“One thing I can tell you that you won’t read on their CVs,” Professor Warren begins, “is what these two were like as students.”
In fact, both Aaron Kwittken, CCAS BA ’92, and Shanee Goss, CCAS BA ’00, once sat where their audience currently does, as students in Professor Warren’s Persuasion class. But today, they’re the instructors, fielding questions from eager students, digging into some of the trends and changes in the communications agency business, and providing advice on career trajectories and how to apply classroom lessons to the real world.
The experience is nothing new for Aaron, who has returned to Foggy Bottom from his offices in New York City to speak to the Persuasion class each semester for the last five years. When Professor Warren learned that Shanee had joined Kwittken last August—he’s kept in touch with both of his former pupils since they graduated—as the managing director of the agency’s global headquarters in New York City, he suggested she join Aaron for this fall’s guest appearance.
“It was nice to see the team approach,” Professor Warren said afterwards. “Having the class hear from both a male and female perspective and from students a decade apart, too—I mean, that is really special.”
Being able to help students see how to translate the course material they’re studying to what she does day-to-day was an important goal for Shanee, as was showing her eager audience what life after graduation can be.
“No matter what town, city, or country you’re coming from; no matter what your area of study or your passions are, we’ve all converged on this place,” she says. “There’s an opportunity to not only learn from each other while you’re here, but to continue to make those connections well beyond your time at GW, as well.”
Aaron says that the decision to come back and speak to the Persuasion class has been an easy one because of the special place GW holds in his heart and the responsibility he feels to pay forward what he gained from his time at GW.
“GW has done enormous things for me—it’s the place where I met my wife, and it’s really where I launched my career from day one, even as a freshman,” he says. “My recognition and appreciation of the part GW has played in my life is a big reason why I believe that the concept of ‘Colonials Helping Colonials’ is so important. I want to make sure current and future students can make the most of their time here and go on to succeed like so many Colonials have.”
Recognizing the role GW has played in your success is just the first step, Aaron says. The second: finding the right opportunity to support GW students and other GW alumni.
“There are opportunities for alums to host dinners and workshops and lectures not just in D.C., but where they work and live,” he says. “There are so many ways to give, but I think giving your time and your interests is really important, and it all comes back around.”
Both Aaron and Shanee agree that GW gives back to them as much as they give to it, not just personally, but professionally, as well.
“Interacting with students is a great opportunity for GW alumni to act as ‘talent scouts’ in a way,” Shanee says. “Whether it’s for their own businesses or for the businesses of friends and colleagues, they’re really getting to see who’s coming up next. Building those relationships really helps connect the right students with the right internship or job opportunities, and everyone wins.”
The ultimate beneficiaries, Professor Clay Warren says, are always the students, and he hopes more GW alumni will recognize the impact they can have if they make a commitment to helping the next generation of Colonials.
“To interact with two former students who were in the class, to hear what they got out of it, to learn how they approach their career aspirations and how things turned out well for them—these are important experiences for current students,” says Professor Warren. “To be willing to come back and share your time and your personage with the students is really special, and they love it.”
—W. Gray Turner
Visit alumni.gwu.edu to learn more about how you can get involved and help Colonials both in and out of the classroom.